The week begins with a gripe, e-mailed today from Mr. Brian Thayer. "What has happened to Last Days? Am I wrong, or didn't it used to be nicely sardonic commentary on recent RELEVANT events? Now it seems to be a forum for news-of-the-weird/gutter humor. It needs to change." First, our thanks to Mr. Thayer for taking the time to write. Last Days is all for constructive criticism; frankly, we're amazed we've gotten away with our shit unchecked for as long as we have. As for Thayer's specific complaint (which we imagine stems from reading one too many items about maggot infestations and condom-gobbling dogs), we can only apologize. Following the events of September 11, Last Days began an unconscious but undeniable drift away from the subtle horrors of relevant real-life events toward the crowd-pleasing horrors of the freak occurrence. And while Last Days will always have a soft spot for bodily-fluid protests and children living with their dead parents, this week we shall defer to the sensibilities of the Brian Thayers of this world and report only events of the highest significance, such as today's Associated Press story about the supercolony of ants stretching thousands of miles from the Italian Riviera along the coastline to northwest Spain. The discovery of the supercolony, consisting of billions of Argentine ants living in millions of cooperative nests, is reported in the new issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which hails the supercolony as "the largest cooperative unit ever recorded." Traditionally, ants from different nests kill each other; but according to European researchers, the ants within the new supercolony showed enough genetic similarities that they immediately began to work together, despite being from different nests with different queens. But what looks like progress may be the path to extinction. "In such a supercolony, many workers are unrelated to the queens they help to raise," said Swiss scientist Laurent Keller. "Thus, in the long term, selection should decrease the altruistic behavior of workers"--turning today's loving supercolony into tomorrow's bloody ant holocaust.


Speaking of dark premonitions: Today Washington State announced its receipt of $20 million in federal funds to help the region's public health system deal with bioterrorism. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington's $20 million consists of $18.1 million for public health improvements and $2.5 million for hospitals, with a slightly larger share of the fed-aid pie going to Seattle and King County, home to the greatest number of hospitals and two-time recipient of high-alert bioterrorism warnings. (For those of you out of the bioterror loop, King County's big bio-threats came during 1999's WTO conference and last year's Mariners baseball playoffs.) Also underway in Seattle is the revival of "syndromic surveillance," the innovative disease-tracking system based on symptoms rather than diagnoses, which more rapidly identifies outbreaks. Great.

··Also: In the greatest display of protest since Texas Republicans prayed their way through the national convention speech of gay Arizona congressman Jim Kolbe, today over 200 people protested the shooting of black citizen Robert Thomas by white off-duty King County Deputy Mel Miller by marching up the middle of Interstate 5, stopping rush-hour traffic for miles and providing Seattle with its first legitimately thrilling protest in over three years of trying. Adding insult to injury, the entire freeway-closing, headline-grabbing affair was carried off without a single arrest. "This is only a beginning," said march leader Rev. Leslie Braxton to the Seattle P-I. "Our tactics will only get more severe from here." Bravo to Braxton, and our condolences to all those who missed the 6:30 p.m. syndicated episode of King of the Hill due to a traffic-clogging march for justice.


Perhaps if this were another week--one where we weren't beholden to snooty news snobs like Brian Thayer--Last Days could share today's Associated Press story about the 75-year-old man charged with impregnating a 10-year-old girl whom he met through an "Adopt-a-Godfather" program in Bridgeport, Conn. But it isn't, and we can't.


Ah, Texas. Home of the Cowboys, backdrop for Dallas, and birthplace of Last Days. The land-hogging Lone Star State is also the proud parent of what is widely hailed as the most barbaric prison system in the United States. And today the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against a number of Texas prison officials, who repeatedly ignored the cries for help of a gay inmate forced to live through daily rapes, beatings, and sexual slavery. At the center of the ACLU lawsuit is Roderick Johnson, a 33-year-old gay black inmate from Marshall, Texas. According to the ACLU's complaint, Roderick Johnson identified himself as gay to prison staff during the intake process. But rather than placing Johnson in protective custody--a lifesaving courtesy typically granted to prisoners displaying one or more "vulnerable characteristics" (gayness, shyness, crippledness, retardedness)--Johnson was placed in the general population, and all Hell broke loose. The ACLU complaint describes how gang members negotiated fees of $5 to $10 for sex with Johnson, threatening him with beatings and death if he refused. It gets worse: On seven different occasions Roderick Johnson appeared before the prison's all-white classification committee, informing them of the daily sexual attacks and requesting placement in safe keeping. Not only did the committee refuse Johnson's requests for protection, they openly mocked his claims of abuse ("I personally believe you like dick," said one committee member) and eventually transferred him to the most dangerous and gang-infested unit in the prison. "They threw our client to the wolves," says the ACLU's Margaret Winter. Making all of this that much more terrifying: Roderick Johnson came to be in the Texas prison system by bouncing a $300 check while on parole for a non-violent crime. Stay tuned for further details.


Nothing happened today. But yesterday an American fighter pilot in Afghanistan mistook an advanced training exercise for enemy gunfire and dropped a 500-pound laser-guided bomb on a collection of troops from Canada, killing four Canadian soldiers and wounding eight others.


In much, much lighter news: Tonight Last Days had the extreme pleasure of stumbling upon VH1's "network television premiere!" of Paul Verhoeven and Joe Eszterhas' accidental masterwork, Showgirls. It's no secret that Last Days considers Showgirls to be the most entertaining film ever made, and we tuned into tonight's broadcast hoping the strictures of network TV would force the filthy Showgirls to navigate its way through a maze of nonsensical cuts and hilariously klutzy overdubs (à la last week's Thelma & Louise/"Clean my clock!" fiasco). What we found was beyond our wildest dreams. Not only were the filthy quips all dubbed or cut (diminishing the running time by nearly 40 percent), the producers solved the problem of Showgirls' continuous nudity in a most ingenious way, digitally inking a motley assortment of bras and tops onto the previously exposed forms of Elizabeth Berkley, Gina Gershon, and the staff at the Cheetah. (Sadly, Henrietta Bazoom's boob trick was left on the cutting-room floor.) The effect was entrancing, and added one more layer of mystery and artistry to Showgirls' eternally entrancing façade. However, it appears Last Days is alone in our admiration for the edited Showgirls, as director Paul Verhoeven chose to replace his name in the credits with Jan Jansen, who, legend has it, lives in Wisconsin.


Nothing happened today.